Key To A Successful Marketing Plan: Action

I like Wikipedia’s definition of a plan: A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with timing and resources, used to achieve an objective.[1] As far as definitions go, this is pretty spot-on. What so many business owners and marketers forget or fail at, though, is the actually the most important step: action. Without action, a plan is utterly useless.

The trouble, it seems, for most people is that a marketing plan can be very overwhelming. Just like a business plan, there is a lot to put together. At least, there is if you are trying to put together a marketing plan that gives the vibe of being produced by an MBA. But let’s face it, these are normally not what your business really needs. Sometimes, just a bullet-point list broken down by month is enough. Granted, you’ll probably want to be a little more specific than that, but the point remains.

Marketing Plan Books Are No Good

I’ve got numerous books on the subject of marketing plans, one is x pages, the other is y pages, and another is z pages long. As a business owner or marketer on a deadline, having to go through all of those steps is daunting at best, a Freddie Kruger nightmare at worst. No one has the time, it seems, to do all of those things in preparation for the upcoming year’s marketing.

So, how do we create a marketing plan that is built for action and therefore success. It can be as simple as the language used within it. Shifting the focus away from the what you want to achieve to the how you’re going to achieve it can make a huge difference to the successful implementation of your plan. That’s not to say that the what isn’t important, rather it is given a lower priority in the scheme of completing the marketing plan task.

For example, let’s assume you determine that one of the things that you want to accomplish in the upcoming year is a 15% increase in top line revenue while maintaining a 5% reduction in expenses. On the surface, this is a great goal, but it needs more. Saying you want a 15% increase in revenues and 5% reduction in expenses, and leaving it there, is like saying you want to travel to some remote part of the world and for cheap. It’s a great goal, but by itself, it doesn’t really have much of a leg to stand on.

Keep the revenue/expense goal written down, then move on to the meat of your plan: the action steps that will equal accomplishment. Usually this can be developed through a combination of multiple things, such as:

  • Actions taken in previous year. Write out a list of actual activities that took place in the previous year. Put the ones that generated a positive result in one column, and the ones that were flat or negative results in another column. We’ll focus on the action steps that provided positive results.
  • Actions to try in the upcoming year. Now, put your positive actions from last year away for a moment, and start a new list. This list will contain the actions that you think, based on intuition, statistics, customer feedback, or similar, that you’d like to try.